Not everyone experiences a regular bowel movement. For a lot of individuals, constipation is a problem. It is either stool aren’t passed regularly or not completely passed. Constipation can also lead to lumpy and hard stools that can either be unusually small or large. While some prefer over-the-counter laxatives to solve constipation, natural laxatives are a better option.
What Are Laxatives?
Laxatives relieve constipation by increasing stool bulk, frequency, and motility. There are numerous types of laxatives.
1. Bulking Agent
Laxatives rich in bulking agents, which is fiber, include Metamucil, Fiber-Lax, Fibercon, Equilactin, Citrucel, and Benefiber. This type of laxative is best for slow-transit and normal constipation.
2. Emollient Laxative
These laxatives are also called stool softeners. Its docusate content helps soften and “wet” the stool. Examples of emollient laxatives include Colace. This type of laxative is prescribed for individuals who are on the road to recovery from a surgical procedure. It is also advised for use in women who have just undergone labor and in individuals suffering from hemorrhoids.
3. Guanylate Cyclase-C Agonist Laxative
An example of this laxative is Plecanatide. It works by changing the consistency of stool by increasing the amount of water in the gastrointestinal lumen. Plus, it boosts the digestive movement. This laxative is often prescribed by doctors for individuals who suffer from chronic idiopathic constipation.
4. Hyperosmolar and Osmotic Laxative
Examples of this kind of laxative include Miralax, Milk of Magnesia, Kristalose, and Fleet Phospho-Soda. These laxatives draw fluid from the surrounding tissues into the intestine which results in soft stools that become easy to excrete.
5. Lubricant Laxative
This type of laxative contains mineral oil that makes the stools greasy. It is best used for short-term constipation.
6. Stimulant Laxative
For instant release from constipation, a stimulant laxative can help. It works by accelerating stool movement through one’s colon. This laxative stimulates the intestine’s lining and increases the hydration of the stool. A few notable brands include Senokot, Dulcolax, and Correctol.
Over-the-counter laxatives shouldn’t be for long-term use. There are numerous risks involved when laxatives are used regularly for constipation relief.
The frequent use of laxatives lessens the ability of the colon to contract. Moreover, it may worsen or further complicate one’s constipation.
Interacts with Medications
Laxatives can affect the effectivity of other drugs, such as antibiotics, bone medications, and some heart prescription drugs. Before you try a laxative, it is best to consult with your doctor or a licensed pharmacist. Also, do not exceed a dose that is recommended for one’s age and body-built. Always seek information from a knowledgeable physician.
For pregnant and breastfeeding women, stool softeners and bulk-forming laxatives are deemed safe for use. On the other hand, stimulant laxatives are ill-advised for pregnant women. As for breastfeeding women, the use of laxatives must be under the recommendation of a doctor. The ingredients in laxatives may leak into the breastmilk and could likely cause diarrhea in infants.
Always read the directions on the label and to use the laxative as advised. Do not go over the recommended dosage. Long-term use of laxatives may cause the following adverse reactions.
- Bloody Stools
- Cramps or Pain That Is Severe
- Constipation That Lasts More Than Seven Days In Spite of Laxative Use
- Rectal Bleeding
- Unusual Tiredness or Weakness
- Unexplained Changes in Bowel Movement
If an individual manifests any of the symptoms mentioned above, then discontinue using the laxative and get medical attention.
Skip the trouble of experiencing side effects caused by over-the-counter laxatives and try natural methods to stimulate the bowel movement. Here are just a few ways.
1. Drink Enough Water
Dehydration can lead to constipation. Prevent this by getting enough water in a day. Stay well hydrated and consume more than eight glasses of water in a day. Skip carbonated drinks like soda as these may worsen constipation and also increase blood glucose levels. Stick to water, whether sparkling or tap.
2. Drink Caffeinated Coffee
Studies prove that caffeinated coffee helps stimulate muscles in the digestive system. Moreover, the amount of soluble fiber in a cup of coffee improve the number of good bacteria in the gut that stimulates the bowel movement.
3. Eat Food Rich in Fiber
Fiber helps to increase stool bulk. It also makes it easy for stools to pass. However, the type of fiber that helps relieve constipation varies.
- Soluble Fiber: This type of fiber is sourced from vegetables, fruits, oat bran, seeds, nuts, peas, and lentils. It helps soften stool and improve stool consistency.
- Insoluble Fiber: It adds bulk to stools; thus, making it easy to pass. This type of fiber is best found in whole grains, vegetables, and wheat bran.
Take note that the recommended daily intake for fiber is 38 grams for men and 25 grams for women.
4. Eat Probiotic Food
For individuals suffering from chronic constipation, consuming probiotic food should help. Probiotic food helps relieve constipation by producing short-chain fatty acids and lactic acid that improve movement in the gut. This makes it easy for the stool to pass. Examples of probiotic food include kimchi, sauerkraut, and yogurt.
5. Eat Prebiotic Food
Prebiotic food improves the number of good bacteria in the gut. Moreover, prebiotic food helps soften stool and increase the regularity of bowel movement. Examples of prebiotic food include bananas, onions, and garlic.
6. Eat Prunes or Drink Prune Juice
Prunes are nature’s answer to constipation. It contains sorbitol which is a type of sugar that has a cathartic effect on the bowel. Approximately 50 grams should be consumed twice a day to relieve constipation.
7. Try the Low-FODMAP Diet
FODMAP means fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols. This kind of diet limits foods high in FODMAP for a specific period. A low-FODMAP diet is highly advised for individuals suffering from constipation due to irritable bowel syndrome.
8. Try to Avoid Dairy
For some individuals, an intolerance to dairy can lead to constipation. If one feels lactose intolerant, then remove dairy from the diet. Observe if it affects one’s bowel movements. If it does, then it means lactose intolerance is indeed causing one’s constipation. Skip the dairy and opt for other sources of calcium.